Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pan Twardowski, Faust, Matasyahu and Mephispheles

Maybe after reading this title all has been said already. Indeed for those that know the story or Faust, Dr. Faustus or Pan Twardowski the message of the title is clear.

From all the personalities listed above Pan (Mr.) Twardowski is the lesser known one, especially to those living outside of Poland but I will remember him perhaps forever.
The Polish romantic writer Adam Mickiewicz wrote a poem about this anti hero and when I was in school we received a home assignment to study the poem until we could recite it from memory, Now that my children are grown I can admit that I almost never did any home work Not only didn’t I do homework but for years I didn’t even use notebooks to take notes during classes. My teachers were quite upset with me, but they lacked any understanding of why I was unable to write properly especially in the Polish language which is extremely twisted. Well, we were living in the times when understanding of dyslexia or dysgraphia was unknown. So… we receive an assignment to memorize the Pan Twardowski poem. And it is quiet a long poem, the longest poem that I have ever memorized! I got one of the best marks in my life for I recited it with ‘feeling”. Once I decided to do something it would come quite easy for me. Otherwise my records at school were more than awful.

Pan Twardowski was a legendary noble man who had a talent to perform magic tricks and eventually sold his soul to Chort – Slavic kind of devil. Pan Twardowski is the Polish version of the German Faust story written by Goethe. In Goethe’s story, Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles for fame and money. Goethe also wrote at the time when romance was the most popular literature genre in Europe. From what I remember from school and from a theater performance that I saw over 25 years ago, the Faust story goes something like this: His Faust wants to achieve happiness which he believes will be attained when he gains the love of Gretchen and for this he was ready to sell his soul. At the end of the story things get rather messy as he destroys the tranquility of Gretchen’s family and only her true love and Christian forgiveness were able to save the Faust’s soul from the torments of hell.

Thomas Mann, another famous German writer wrote a different story based on the legend of Faust – the story of Dr. Faustus. I would say that this story dressed in novel, carries a mark of post existential period of European philosophy, when some of the ideas of Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and later Huserl and Heidegger were popularized by the publication of the novels.  Thomas Mann’s hero doesn’t aspire for magic trickery or just romantic (somatic) love, he wants to understand the meaning of life, and this is what he is ready to sell his soul for.

Depending on the winds blowing around the globe at different times people crave different ideals and desire different earthly aspects of life. Even Faustus if I remember correctly is involved with a woman, so in the end it is always about fame, domination, money and sex.

If you read however all those narratives from the beginning, we see in those stories personalities of almost crystal clear honesty and their only desire is the good of humanity. Somewhere though, along the way, something happened which turned these people to Chort, Mephistopheles, Devil or as we would say in the Hebrew, Sitra Achra – the 'Other Side'.

In today’s days, what our body and corrupted minds desire, is not that much different than what was desired in years before, it has just different manifestations. Every time I see pictures of people standing in line somewhere in Hollywood to get their chance, their big break, it stuns me! People are ready to do anything, including things that go beyond humiliation to join the monstrous mind controlling machine north of LA. They desire to gain their moment of attention like nothing else in their lives. And to a certain extent I don’t blame them; they didn’t get any attention from their parents, because on average they don’t have family. They don’t have a father and mother that can teach them proper values…any values. The only thing they have is a huge TV with hundreds of channels of s…ewage on them as Roger Waters use to sing in his famous song. And then millions of zombies spend their lives watching these and other shows of stupidity and shamelessness.
What boggles my mind is, how some of us who claim to be part of the Torah world are falling into this honey trap that is filled with decay and excrement? (I am not talking now about our holy people who deliberately as an act of separation from this oilom hasheker – the world of falsehood, don’t even have TV’s)

In our Jewish realm we also have a few stories (not novels but historical events) which illustrate this path of self-destruction. In Jewish stories however (Lehavdil), it is usually not limited to the selling of someone’s soul to the other side for private gain, rather it is usually the story of the wholesale selling of Jewish souls to the sitra achra, which usually follows the rejection of the Only True Source.  
While Shaul is an example of one such tragic individual who did not schlep neshamos after him, this can not be said about Yochanan Kohen Gadol or Menelaus who influenced an entire generation to leave the Torah and turn to the idolatrous Hellenistic life style – though not much religion was involved, this time the subject of worship was human body and human mind.
We will never understand the story of Acher who according to the Gemara was judged by Heaven in a special manner allowing him to enter gehinnom for purification. The stories of Hanania, Shabsay Tzvi or other detractors of True Torah Judaism closer to our times are tragic and catastrophic. Tragic, not only because of the personal calamity of these individuals, but also catastrophic as thousands of other Yiden, lost their bond to the Eternal One because of their unshakable trust in their false leaders.

I was watching the career of my namesake Matisyahu from the very beginning. While I didn’t consider the first album of Matisyahu as something artistically special (maybe, because I like my reggae performed by guys from Jamaica and not from Westchester!), according to Jewish music standards it was still a great achievement and a step up in professionalism and artistic performance.  I was surprised though, of the rise of Matasyahu’s star in the non Jewish music market but understood that it was in a large part a result of him being something totally exotic to the music canals and studios.

I always wondered how a bal teshuva like Matis could place himself in an environment that is so viciously opposed to our values. I couldn’t understand how someone who learned Torah for years is still lacking basic knowledge of Tsniyus and Shmiras Aynayim!

Than Matisyahu left Chabad and I heard that he was scouting around in Karlin Stolin. It happens to be that I have some contacts and venues of inside information in this Chasidus and I knew that if he wouldn’t be serious about his life as a Chasid they wouldn’t tolerate him no matter how open minded they are. Was he perhaps looking for some depth which he didn't find in Chabad? Or was Karlin just a step to an even more exotic look and behavior? I don’t know but it was also at this time that I saw some alarming interviews with him which clearly showed his disillusionment not only with this or that Chasidic group but with Torah and Yidishkeit in general.

We, gerim and baaley teshuva have a tendency to schlep our prior experiences and impressions with us to Torah observing community. It can be ok as long as we remember that we have come to learn from those who have had the Torah for generations without interruption. We can share with them our enthusiasm and some chidush from time to time but it is them, our leaders and frum Yiden in general who serve us as guides to follow.

In interviews from a few years ago, Matisyahu didn’t seem to understand this fundamental truth and expressed some strange thoughts which were perhaps undetected by most, but for someone like me who knows the thought process of people who join the Jewish world, it was clear that he is on a dangerous path. In addition, the environment which he was surrounded himself with, requires superhuman moral powers or even a miracle to keep him straight on the path of Torah.

His last appearance in the movie ‘Possession’ proved to me that he treated his Chasidic appearance instrumentally, using it for monetary gain and nothing else. His participation in picturing the Chasidic word as a caricatured reality of dark rooms filled up with Jews that were pushed up from the street by some barkers is just horrible. Using Judaism or any aspect of it for some foolish horror story (more foolish than even other Hollywood products) is no less than treason and a rejection of what every honest Jew treasures most. The pronunciation of Hashem’s holy Name for monetary gain leaves no doubt who the guy with big yarmulke and long payos really is. He can’t fool us, but he certainly fooled thousands if not millions of people. And by presenting a distorted picture of the revelation of Torah, he created a tremendous Chillul Hashem.

From the events which unfolded last year, we know that Matisyahu might be a superstar but he’s definitely not superhuman. As great as his accomplishments were in causing thousands of kids to seek a higher level of life values and spirituality, even greater was his own destruction and failure and the disappointment of all those young people who saw their hero, their leader, rejecting and changing something which for years was a symbol of his spirituality. I don’t buy his explanations that his external appearance doesn’t matter and only what he is inside matters. If he looked as he did it was probably important to him, wasn’t it? It was an external declaration of his convictions and if he changed it, his convictions changed as well. Only stubborn fanatics can follow every move of their leader with blind admiration like those who followed Shabsai in his conversion to Islam or Jones in the Guyana jungle.
While the damage which the fall of Matisyahu wrought, is not of Shabsai Tzvi proportions the damage and indirect influence is still developing.

We are the last group in society at large who still appreciate the word ‘sage’. This is so because we still have a few sages among us and we treasure them and keep them in the highest esteem.
Today the sages in the secular world hiding out in universities are not asked anymore about lessons of history, about our social problems or future of this country and humanity. In the Hollywood culture of today who are the leaders and “Sages” that are asked profound questions? People with brains the size and pattern of a ping pong ball. The Bibers, Rihanas and Lohans - the singers and performers! Who may have G-d given talent to sing or perform but their talent is located in their throats and not in the organ located above it! They can sing but shouldn't advise us about social or political issues! They only know things that come from their kishkes! And all the well dressed and smart appearing journalists asking them such questions are even bigger idiots than those whom they ask. Idiots – are those that ask and idiots are those who answer!

The old Jewish saying goes that – “As the goyim go, so go the yiden.” We are witnessing already this poisonous wind blowing in our streets. We see some performers who because of their popularity imagine that they possess not only superior Chochma, and life experience but they even have the humility which allows them to lead our young along the proper path. Meanwhile they are selling their souls to Mephistopheles or Hormuz (In Talmud Ahura Mazda represents evil) or whoever the name of the 'Other Side' is. They are only performers and they should stay performers. Warm our hearts with song & dance, if you learn enough and have some spiritual qualities you can even lead the minyan but that’s it! Leave the leadership to leaders qualified to lead! If you think we don’t have them in our generation than do nothing! Less you cause even greater harm to your people.

Matys Weiser

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